Civilian Peace Service: the German experience - by Gisela Duerselen
(see this document with added video and links on the blog Toward a eco-economy)
Our vision is the development of a world wide, nonviolent peace corps with several thousand peace specialists. This is what the 90 member organizations of the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) do:
In its Civilian Peace Service, the Federal Republic of Germany is the first and only country to have created an institutionalized service for regions in crisis in which not the military but civil society sets the tone. The CPS is a dispatch service for experienced women and men, who have undergone four months training for nonviolent conflict management. The CPS is a civil society project financed by the state: the implementation rests with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Church and non-church sponsors work together in a consortium for the Civilian Peace Service (ZFD). They include the Action Committee Service for Peace (AGDF), Association of Development Service (AGEH), Christian Services International (CFI), German Development Service (DED), Eirene-International Christian Service for Peace, Church Development Service (EED), Community Services (WFD) and, since March 2007, the CPS Forum (forum ZFD).
In 1999, the first peace specialists went abroad. What has the CPS achieved in ten years?
At the start of 2009, ten German peace specialists are working in Afghanistan. More are taking care of projects in Africa and Asia, in Latin America, the Kosovo and in Israel/Palestine. In order to be really effective they would have to number at least 500. What all have in common is depending on dialogue instead of soldiers, on nonviolent communication instead of armed power.
They work with partners in the crisis regions on projects of reconciliation and are present also where there is no shooting, but imminent danger of a violent confrontation. About 200 civilian peace specialists a year begin their service in many of the world’s crisis areas.
The success of German CPS is also evident in the constant growth of its budget, from five million marks in 1999 to 14 million Euros in 2006, 19 million in 2008, and 30 million Euros (about $50 million Canadian) in 2009.
In 1994 the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg and political scientist Theodor Ebert proposed a corps of as many as 80,000 peace professionals, both men and women, on the same basis as military service. This proposal caused divisions. Some peace organizations feared both government influence, and reduction of existing peace and development services. Others objected to new taxes. Thereupon the Federation for Social Defense developed its own concept of a voluntary corps of 100,000 volunteers, with financing to come from progressive reductions of the national defense budget. In 1995 government approved only an emergency peace service: a rapid deployment of much smaller numbers of experienced professionals. In 1997 the first 70 took part in a 4-months pilot training program by the Rheinland-Westfalen state government. Then in 1998 the Social Democrat / Green federal government coalition promised the establishment of a Civilian Peace Service in its platform.
It took some time for the CPS was able to define responsibilities and cooperate effectively with the established federal Development ministry. Today CPS specialists work directly in conflicts, while the development experts in cooperative deal with structural improvements. The transition is flowing smoothly. Anti-poverty work limits the potential for conflict. Post-conflict work prevents renewed violence and, in turn enables development. Experience has shown that the special strength of the CPS lies in prevention, which is long-term and unspectacular; public donations for catastrophes are much larger. This makes the CPS dependent on government funding. Many peace activists fear that their independence will be compromised by current government policy of "civilian-military cooperation" in Afghanistan.
To strengthen their profile, all EU activists have united in the European Network for Civil Peace Services (EN CPS). In this network, quite different approaches to peace work are brought into contact and coordinated.
Translated from the original German by Hans Sinn.
See also: Canadian Department of Peace movement and CitoyenNEs pour un Ministère de paix; PASC in Colombia; Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) and Peace Brigades International in many countries; Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk.